I credit my lifelong love of reading and writing for leading me to be an English major with a concentration in professional writing while dreaming of being a teacher. I didn’t dress up and play professor, though, or line up all of my stuffed animals and teach them about the different feminist theories that can be pulled out of Kate Chopin’s work; my interest originally started because of a bet I won out of spite against my older brother.
I sat on my knees atop the plastic chairs in the waiting room and pursed my lips back at the fish in the aquarium. I liked going to my older brother’s orthodontist appointments; it was such an interesting, mysterious place with scary-looking instruments that made the most fantastic sounds. The sharp smell of latex gloves and bubble gum toothpaste was new and exciting. And, of course, the best part of all was you got to leave this magical place with braces. Tommy had all the luck.
I leaned back in my chair and sighed, knocking the toes of my cloth tennis shoes covered in butterflies together. The novelty did start to wear off after a while, especially because I couldn’t play rocket ship in the big chair. I picked up a book off the side table.
“Want me to read that to you?” My Mom offered.
I shook my head. “No, thanks—”
My brother laughed, cutting me off. “You can’t read! You just turned four. You haven’t even gone to school yet.”
I scowled at him. Big man Tommy thought he was soooo grown up, just because I was the youngest and he got to have sparkly jewels on his teeth. He wasn’t so cool.
“I can, so,” I defended myself stoutly.
“Cannot,” he retorted.
“Prove it.” He selected a bright orange book from the table and held it out to me. “And no Arthur Gets Glasses or Dress Up like Mommy. I know you have those ones memorized. It has to be a book you’ve never seen before.”
“Leave her alone,” Mom chided gently, but I snatched the book from him and defiantly tossed my untamable curls over my shoulder. I’d show him.
Examining the cover of the book, however, my heart began to sink a little. I had never seen it before, and, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I could read. I had never tried it before, but how difficult could it be? I’d been read to for hours and hours. Besides, I wouldn’t admit I was unsure of myself now for anything. The cover had a joyous figure jumping up and down in the background. A more dubious fellow was in the foreground, apparently very displeased with his meal. I looked at the words printing out the title and reminded myself to try to sound them out, as I’d heard my Dad tell my older sister: “Green Eggs…and Ham.”
“You just guessed the title based on the picture,” Tommy scoffed.
“I did not!” I tried to hide my thrill over apparently having read it correctly. “I honest to goodness read it.” I paused for effect. “So there.”
“Keep going, then,” he challenged.
“Fine.” I nonchalantly opened the book, feigning confidence. I’d read this whole thing if it killed me. I took a deep breath and carefully sounded out, “I am Sam. Sam I am. Do you…like green eggs and ham?” I paused for a moment to glance up at Tommy. He was frowning. I smiled. That was a good sign. Encouraged, I continued uninterrupted, my triumph growing with every word. Look at that! I guess I really could read! I enjoyed my victory and the story was pretty entertaining, too, despite the sourness of the doubtful figure in the story. What a crab. Sam I Am was just trying to be nice and share what he loved. The cranky guy did end up liking the green eggs and ham, anyway. I was sure that’s what would happen with Tommy if he just gave Barbies a chance.
“See?” I said triumphantly, thrusting the book back into his hands. “You thought you’d prove me wrong, but I proved you wrong. I am Kate. Kate the Great.”
He stared at me, open-mouthed. The hygienist called his name and he started to go, but turned back. “Mom, she can really read!”
My Mom was speechless, apparently just as surprised.
“’Course I can,” I said lightly. “I tried to tell you.”
He left, still shaking his head, and I resumed making faces back at the fish. Maybe later I’d try my sister’s copy of Little Women.